Growing up in Little Rock, he envisioned New York as a place where the sidewalks are crowded with people, cars speed through the streets and angry drivers constantly bang on their horns.
And as he road through Manhattan on Friday afternoon in a limousine with Ohio State quarterback and fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Troy Smith, McFadden realized his preconceived notion of the city was accurate.
"It's exactly the same (as the movies)," McFadden said, sitting in a hotel room only a Hail Mary pass away from Radio Music City Hall.
McFadden had never been to New York before this week, and he certainly didn't think his first trip to the Big Apple would come as a Heisman finalist.
Like other kids who played football, McFadden often joked that he'd someday win the Heisman. He even considered striking the famous Heisman pose after breaking off a big run, though he never did.
But truth be told, he didn't think he actually had a chance of winning college football's most prestigious individual award.
And when Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt told McFadden as a senior at Pulaski Oak Grove High that he'd someday be a Heisman candidate if he signed with the Razorbacks, McFadden didn't take Nutt seriously.
"He told me when he was recruiting me in high school, 'We're going to make you a Heisman candidate.' At that time, I was just like, 'Yeah, OK, that's just a recruiting tool he's using,'" McFadden said. "But now I'm here and it's true to me."
Nutt said he didn't know why he told McFadden that he'd be a Heisman candidate, but as it turns out, the coach was right. McFadden is the first Arkansas player to be named a Heisman finalist in school history.
"(I said), 'We never had one here, and with your speed, we want you to be the first Heisman (finalist) ever (in Arkansas history)," Nutt said. "And look where we are right now."
McFadden is one of three finalists for the Heisman, and in a show of how good the sophomore has been for the No. 12 Razorbacks this season, he's the only running back who was invited to New York for today's Heisman Trophy ceremony.
The Heisman winner will be announced around 7:50 p.m. today in a ceremony at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. ESPN's Heisman coverage begins at 7 p.m.
McFadden is joined by a pair of quarterbacks, Smith and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. And while McFadden thinks Smith has the award all but won, the sophomore can't help but enjoy being in New York.
After all, it was only four months ago that McFadden had serious doubts about whether he'd even be able to play this season after severely injuring his big toe in a fight outside a Little Rock nightclub.
"When I had the toe injury, I had just told myself, 'Man, I'm just going to be happy to get back out there on the field and be out there with my teammates and playing," McFadden said. "I never even thought about none of this stuff."
But as uncertain as McFadden's season seemed in August, his mother said she had a sense that he could end up in New York as one of the nation's best college football players.
"He was down in the dumps for about a week," said Mini Muhammad, who accompanied her son to New York. "And then after we said it was going to be better and he saw that his toe was feeling better, he got on back up and started being himself again."
Fully healed, McFadden rushed for 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns, caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, completed six passes for 72 yards and three touchdowns and returned a kickoff 92 yards for a score.
That's why he's in New York for the first time this week.
"It has sunk in on me now," McFadden said. "I'm one of the top three elite players in college football."
McFadden Takes Big Apple By Storm
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